The Keys to Career Success

Last week, I had the chance to speak to the Boston College Tech Trek students visiting the Bay Area. These students are led by Professor John Gallaugher and got the chance to visit with a number of tech companies in the Bay Area to learn about the tech industry, and made a pit stop at the Deloitte office to learn a bit about the consulting industry and the topic of digital consulting.

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During the latter part of the presentation I also spent some time talking about career opportunities in the Tech industry and what students can do in order to achieve their own desired career success. We closed with a section on some of our own keys to success that we felt helped us achieve our own success thus far and I wanted to share them here. So with a little channeling of my inner DJ Khaled, here are some of my keys to success:

Lesson 1: Know Yourself – Take the time know yourself and to ask yourself the tough questions about what you want to do in your career. I think self-awareness is an underrated skill, and some of the most successful people I have seen have taken the time to understand what they want to do while plotting steps (baby at times) to get there.

Lesson 2: Never Stop Learning – Technology moves fast. It can be hard to keep up. Instead, focus on the art of learning, and never stop. College is a transformational time to grow and develop. If you can learn “how to learn” and begin to do it frequently you will find yourself in better position to adapt and evolve throughout your career.

Lesson 3: Put Others First – If you consider others before yourself, you’ll find all the help you’ll ever need and more opportunities than you can imagine. I know this is a rather counterintuitive lesson, but I’ve found that helping others has given me more opportunities that I could ever imagine. Adam Grant’s Give and Take is a great example of how putting others first can help you get ahead in your career.

Lesson 4: Always Keep The Door Open – You got here because someone opened the door for you. Keep it open for someone else. Or better yet, open new doors for others. I’ve been fortunate to get to where I am in my career and I know I wouldn’t be here without hard work and effort. Having said that, I would be foolish if I didn’t acknowledge the countless people whose help and kindness gave me the opportunities and breaks to help me land where I am. I’m committed to keeping that door open to others, and finding ways to open new ones too.

Lesson 5: Be Kind – It costs very little, and pays significantly. I’ve  found that saying hello, smiling, opening doors, and saying please and thank you can make a huge difference.

2015 Year in Review: My First Annual Letter

Each year, companies write letters to their shareholders letting them know how they did and what to expect in the year to come. I’ve decided to adopt a similar policy myself. I got inspiration to do one of these after reading one of my favorite blogs and seeing some others who I respect do something similar. I thought it would be great to detail some of the successes and failures and come up with some tangible goals for the year. I am already looking forward to next December to see how I did!

 

2015 was a big year for me. I graduated from business school, decided to return to my company, moved to a new state (and coast) and attended my five year college reunion. Without humblebragging too much it probably was one of my best years yet.

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Celebrating one last time after graduating

I wish I could say I had a lot to do with this but the reality of it is that it takes a village and without the village of friends, family and colleagues I would not be where I am. I wish I could say I did something different, or had a magic formula for success, but honestly, a lot of success came from showing up every day, working hard, getting some breaks, being persistent, and trying to stay true to my core values and beliefs.

 

While I had many successes, I certainly had my moments when I failed and fell short. This is natural, and something that I need to be more comfortable with (More on that later) But with that in mind, let’s take a look at what happened in 2015.

Successes

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Family photo after getting my diploma

Graduated from Business School – One of the obvious accomplishments for the year was graduating from business school back in May. Going to business school has been a goal of mine since I was little when I learned from my parents that education was the platform for them to achieve their own personal and professional goals. This goal felt extra special to me, as both my parents are proud holders of MBAs themselves, so it was extra meaningful to have them there to celebrate this accomplishment, as none of this would have been possible without them. What was even more humbling was to be awarded with the Class Leadership Award. I participated in a number of fantastic leadership opportunities while in business school and in addition to learning a great deal I developed some pretty special friendships. To be recognized for the work that I did and the impact I made was humbling and icing on the cake.

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Returned to Consulting – I went into business school with the intention of reflecting on what I had done in my career and understanding where I wanted to go long-term. My next step brought me back to where I started, or well, close to it. I decided to return to consulting, and feel fortunate to be back with a good company. I got even luckier to return to working with some former colleagues who I like and respect, personally and professionally. I’m closer to figuring out the impact I want to have on this world and learning more about what that might look like for my career and jobs of the future, but for now, returning to the firm and consulting was the right career choice.

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BC Reunion 2015

Celebrated my 5-Year College Reunion – I celebrated my 5 year reunion by at the end of May. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Alma Mater Boston College so getting the chance to return and see some friends who I have seen since graduating ones that I haven’t was super exciting and memorable. I feel like I’ve said this many times, but I thought I couldn’t love BC more than I did and yet again I was proven wrong.

 

Move to the West Coast – I spent the Summer of 2014 in San Francisco, and had such a great time I decided to move there in June. While I miss the east coast, I’ve really enjoying living here so far. I’m not sure how long I’ll be out here, but I’m liking it for now. And if you’re ever in the area, hit me up!

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Always great to have visitors!

Served in a Wedding – In addition to having close friends get engaged (James/Carrie) and celebrating marriages (  Jeff/Katie) I had the privilege of seeing one of my closest friends Charlie get married, and an even greater privilege as serving as his best man. In addition to helping plan a pretty fun bachelor party, I’ve been told I handled my best man duties well, as I did a solid job in my best man speech and provided adequate to above average moves on the dance floor.

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Congrats Chuck and Kel!

Started writing regularly – I’ve blogged, written, and published in fits and starts in the past, but could never find the momentum to do it regularly. 2015 was the year I finally got momentum. A lot of this came on MBASchooled, the blog I started, but I also wrote on a number of other venues. I can’t claim to be a great writer just yet, but I’m pleased that I finally got over a big hump.

 

Kept my Resolutions – I set some resolutions in 2015 and I did a good job of checking a number of them off the list – I took salsa classes, learned how to cook a few more dishes, started writing regularly, started doing yoga, visited a few of my close friends, and read 12 books. Not too bad!

 

Traveled the World – Business School gave me a great opportunity to catch the travel bug. In addition to seeing my friends and family all across the United States I got to South America for the first time (Chile and Peru) and made it back to Europe (Italy and France.) In the US, I made it to Austin (first time) and saw some old favorites (Boston, NYC, Los Angeles, and Seattle.)

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Cusco, Peru

Found an apartment..in San Francisco! – If you live in the Bay Area you will appreciate the gravity of this!

Helping Out in the Career Search – By my own metrics, I believe I was able to respond to > 95% of the requests I got for career advice. If I missed you, I’m sorry! Shoot me a note and I’ll try again!

Failures

Sleep (or lack thereof) – I’ve never been a great sleeper but in 2015 somehow I managed to get worse. I’m not sure if it was too much coffee, too much screen time before bed, or just other bad habits, but it’s something I need to work on for the future.

 

Not getting out of my comfort zone – I pride myself on setting goals and achieving them, and sometimes I optimize for achieving goals instead of stretching myself or learning. I think I was challenged in 2015, but I don’t think I put myself in enough positions where I was really pushing myself outside of something I was capable/comfortable with.

 

Too much thinking – I pride myself on being thoughtful and practicing due diligence, but I have a tendency to overthink things before, during, and after they happen. A number of decisions I made I felt like I spent way too much time and effort on given the output or outcome. Furthermore, I think I stressed or got anxiety thinking about a number of things that either A) didn’t matter B) I had 0 control over.

 

Marathon Cut Short – I was training for the Chicago marathon and got pretty far into the process (20 miles) before getting injured and bowing out. This was a disappointing experience but ultimately the right decision as running would have been an awful (and painful) experience. I’m going to run a marathon eventually, it just wasn’t in 2015.

 

 

What I Learned

Doing nothing can be amazing – On a number of occasions, I found myself with significant amounts of down time in 2015. I’m someone who thrives off of a schedule and activities and in these situations I was uncomfortable at first with the thought of doing nothing. Well, I survived those times, and actually, it was pretty awesome. Sometimes, the doing nothing means everything. Sure, I still thrive off the schedule, and at the end of a long break I do get a little restless but I think I finally enjoyed to enjoy the solace of peace and quiet.

 

Taking care of yourself is important – I turned 28 in December and by no means am I old. Having said that, I’m starting to see signs of aging. My back has taken a toll from sitting at a computer all day and I was training for a marathon and got injured and had to stop. None of these are life threatening setbacks, but I’ve learned the importance of taking care of yourself so you can enjoy life as much as possible.

 

Time is precious – Unfortunately, I lost my Aunt Joyce in late 2015, and had a number of friends who also lost loved ones. Death has and always will be present, but this year it hit closer to home than ever before. As trite as it sounds, its important to cherish and value the time and experiences you have with others. People don’t last forever, but the gratitude and appreciation you have for them can.

 

The Secret of Your 20’s – During business school, some of my more experienced and mature classmates “envied” me because I didn’t have things in my life that tied me down, and was able to make decisions based on what I wanted to do. Many of them had spouses, pets, children, mortgages, etc that they had to weigh, which often made the decision making process more complex. Through my many conversations with my classmates, I began to feel grateful and aware of how much autonomy and agency I had at this point in my life.

Conversely, I have friends, either from BC, or who I grew up with who are my age but are at similar stages of life to my business school classmates – married, getting puppies, thinking about kids, saving for a house, and at times, I felt uneasy thinking of “how far behind” I was than most of my peers, and I began to put inherent pressure on myself to “catch up.”

Your 20’s is an interesting time because for the first time you don’t have  a marker or pacesetter (ex: Sophomore Year, Junior Year, Senior Year) that governs progress for you and your peers. As such, people kind of evolve and move at their own pace, and when you look to the right and left it can be easy to get overwhelmed because you automatically think you are behind if you are not moving as fast as other people. In reality, there’s much to be enjoyed at all stages of life, and there is no better time to enjoy it but the present. Sure, I want many of the things that my friends who are farther along in their journey have, and probably yearn for things that some of my younger friends have, but focusing too much on what’s behind or what’s ahead will cloud your view to see the goodness that’s right in front of you.

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Beach Week 2015!

 

Goals for 2016

 

Personal Projects – I have a couple personal projects that I’ve had on the back burner for many years and I think it’s time that I take them front in center in 2016. To start, I’m working on developing some content around career development for 20-somethings that I not only will share digitally but also hope to present in a public setting. I’ve started and shelved some of these projects multiple times over the past 5-6 years but I’ve got good momentum and progress even though I’m barely a week into the New Year so I am excited about seeing them to fruition.

 

Building New Relationships – For the past two years, I’ve had the benefit of being in business school and surrounded by 560 people who all have something in common with me. As such, it was convenient to build relationships. One of the biggest secrets of being a post-grad 20 something is that it is hard and takes work to build relationships when you’re out of a college or grad school setting. I love my friends, both in San Francisco and outside of it and hope to see and stay in touch with them but I also know there are lots of great people out there who I probably have something in common with too. So, in addition to maintaining great relationships with existing friends, in 2016 I hope to build new relationships with new people.

 

Sleeping better – I’ve never been a great sleeper and I’ve honestly never tried to get better at it. I’m starting to realize the impact of poor sleep (read here) and I want to make this a goal for 2015. To help, I’ve already made some adjustments – starting in late 2015 I began keeping my work phone out of my bedroom at night. I just moved to keeping my personal phone out of the bedroom as well and relying on an alarm clock (can you believe it?) I’m going to try turn keep off the phone earlier in the evening so I can unclutter my mind and prevent distractions or mindless phone checking. My lone exception will be the Kindle Reader, so if I want to read before bed I can still do that.

 

Falling on my face – As I said earlier, one of my failures for 2015 was not failing enough. I know that some of the best growing and learning opportunities came when I was uncomfortable or was extremely challenged. I still want to look for opportunities to leverage my strengths, but I want to continue on exponential growth, and I know I need to fail in order to get that.

 

More Doing, Less Thinking – I’m all for being thoughtful and using rationale and patience to make decisions but at times I can be overly analytical and suffer paralysis by analysis. I want to focus on just jumping in on certain decisions instead of trying to think and play out every single scenario. Also, doing does not mean that I can’t think. In fact, doing and taking action will give me an opportunity to eventually evaluate what I decided to do.

 

Less Technology – I’m all for technology, and I love using it. However, I’ve realized I’m too reliant on it, especially my smartphone. I’m trying to check my phone less often throughout the course of the day. As mentioned above, I’m shutting it off earlier in the evening. Finally, I’m trying to find more activities I can do that don’t require me to be in front of a computer.

 

West Coast Best Coast? – Is the west coast the best coast? Well, I’d love to find out. I’m going to try to get to a couple places on the west coast for vacation this year to find out if what they say is true!

 

Conclusion

2015 was a great year, and a fun year. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and grateful for the love, support, and people that are in my life. I am excited about what’s in store for 2016 and look forward to making these goals happen!

How skipping the internship changed my career

Note: This is a longer version of a post I recently shared on LinkedIn

I’ve become familiar with internships. From having one myself last summer (it was a blast!) to managing and coaching interns, I’ve gained a good sense of the value and opportunity that internships provide. Thus, I highly recommend people use them to develop and grow in their career.

But when I think about my own internship experience, one of the most influential decisions that I ever made was choosing to turn down an internship.

Seven years ago, I was doing what every driven student in the Boston College Carroll School of Management was doing – polishing my resume, writing cover letters, and applying to as many internships as possible.

As a natural planner and go-getter, I had developed a plan for success – the premise was simple: getting good internship experiences means getting good jobs, and getting good jobs helps you start a good career.

But amidst the interviews and 20 revisions of my resume I saw another opportunity come across my plate – possibly becoming an orientation leader for first-year students at Boston College.

As an orientation leader, I would be working with fellow faculty, administrators, and leaders to welcome incoming first-year students. It felt like a combination of being a mentor, peer, friend, advisor, camp counselor, and personal coach.

Having had great coaches, mentors, and guides in my life I saw the value of these people. So I really strived to do the same for others, which made this an attractive opportunity.

The challenge would be that I would have to forego gaining relevant business experience, and do something entirely different than the majority of my classmates. Not to mention, go down a path that was actually pretty far from my own “plan.”

The more I applied to internships, the better the idea of being an orientation leader stuck in my mind. Up to that point, I had really enjoyed my experience at Boston College, and I had navigated it smoothly thanks to the guidance of my own orientation leader and countless other students.

As a passionate believer in the Jesuit mission of using your talents to benefit others, just thinking about the opportunity excited and energized me in ways unlike any of the internships for which I was applying. But I couldn’t see how this path fit in my plan, so I was hesitant to move forward.

 

When it comes to making decisions, I take into account both my head and my heart. Sometimes there’s alignment, and other times there’s discomfort, and this time it was the latter. With this one, I couldn’t ignore my heart, and decided to apply.

After applying and making it through a few rounds of interviews, I was given an offer to become an orientation leader.

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At the time, my friends and family were supported but perplexed. They knew I loved business and was motivated and driven by my “plan,” so doing something that derailed from this seemed unlike me.

Furthermore, this was also in spring of 2008. I certainly admit I did not foresee the biggest recession coming since the Great Depression. But others around me warned about the potential limitations I was putting on myself for getting a full-time job after college. I respected their opinions, but mustered up the courage and confidence to stand by my decision.

Instead of learning the ins and outs of a business, networking with executives, and going to happy hour, I was advising students on what classes to take, how to adjust to life on your own (no parents!) and honing my dodge ball, acting, and icebreaker skills.

It was far from that internship I set out to discover, but I loved every second of it. Sure, sometimes I got envious of my classmates who were interning at investment banks, consulting firms and Fortune 500 companies, and getting “real world experience.” But what I gained was just as real world as working a “traditional internship.” (I am also certain they were not playing dodge ball at work!)

That summer, I had a sense of purpose. That was to help incoming students and parents feel comfortable and excited about their opportunity to pursue higher education.Having gone through the transition myself, I could speak openly and honestly about my own experience. Furthermore, getting to work alongside fellow students, faculty and administrators who were just as passionate about the Boston College experience and mission gave me energy and enthusiasm that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

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Being an orientation leader did not feel like work – it felt like an extension of being the best version of myself. I could use my skills, talents, and leadership abilities to help other people. Furthermore, it taught me skills and lessons that transformed my life and are still relevant to me today.

First, it taught me to how to problem solve on the fly. With a team of 43 other members, 350+ students and 200+ parents, there was always something deviating from plan.

While we went through an exhaustive two-week training program, no manual could possibly prepare you for everything you’d encounter. There were countless times when I was put in positions where I had to find solutions on the fly – to make sure our end customers (students and/or parents) felt comfortable and got what they needed. As a consultant, I am in the business of problem solving, so learning how to come up with solutions instead of merely identifying problems was a valuable skill.

Secondly, the role taught me how to empathize with diverse groups of people. While going to college is an exciting opportunity, it also causes a lot of anxiety and concern. Furthermore, not everyone loves a mandatory orientation. At times, it was challenging and difficult to understand when people weren’t excited, or why they would fight you on things they had to do or not do, or why they wouldn’t follow instructions. But when you took the time to understand what was driving their motivations, their behaviors and words made sense.

I learned to respond in ways that demonstrated empathy and understanding, but also drove towards solutions that benefited everyone. In my career, I’ve had to build relationships with people, from the administrative staff up to the C-Suite. Learning how to see things through their perspective has helped me refine my approach to building relationships when working with clients.

 

Last but not least, I learned a lot about motivating and influencing others. As a 20-year-old, I was responsible for 10-15 students each week. While I was older and experienced, I didn’t necessarily have management control over these students. So learning how to motivate and guide people to accomplish what you’ve been tasked with doing was not always easy.

In my experience, I’ve often had to figure out how to get things done without having formal influence, titles, or power. I have learned along the way that sometimes the most effective people in an organization are not always the ones with the title, but the ones who know how to motivate and influence others regardless of their title.

As someone who has worked in roles where I’ve been tasked with “getting shit done,” these lessons were invaluable to helping me drive execution of projects and initiatives, without necessarily having formal power or control.

Since I passed on that internship, I’ve worked for one of the largest consulting firms, Fortune’s most innovative company, and graduated from business school. So while not having an internship deviated a bit from my life plan at 20, I feel fortunate and privileged to be where I am seven years later.

 

On a personal level, working on a high-performing team with 43 other motivated, intelligent, and qualified individuals helped me build incredible relationships with countless people. Some of my closest friends today came from that summer – I’ve traveled the world, been in weddings, and navigated the highs (successes) and lows (failures, deaths) with these friends. I’ve always been blessed with good people in my life, and many of them came from that phenomenal experience.

Sometimes, opportunities come up that don’t seem to fit our plan, and it’s easy to write them off. From what I’ve learned from my #interning experience, having a plan is great, but going off the plan can open your aperture to opportunities and experiences that you never thought were possible.

Furthermore, it’s important to listen and balance the head (logic, reasoning) and the heart (feeling, emotion.) Both are needed to help you guide your life choices and decisions.

That summer, my decision to not take that internship changed my life, and I’m forever grateful for that experience. And the next time I take a job that includes playing dodge ball, I know I’ll be prepared